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  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The seizure of Idlib, Syria on March 27 by a newly formed coalition led by al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate makes it ever clearer that the conflict in Syria has devolved into two camps: extremist followers of the violent ideology of bin Ladinism and supporters of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad The rebel coalition, led by al-Nusra Front with its effective fighting force and recently seized advanced weaponry and Jaysh al-Fatah, a group divided amongst itself between various shades of Islamist factions that include groups like Ahrar al-Sham, accomplished in several days what rebel groups had been unable to do for four years: take effective control of the provincial capital of Idlib The loss of Idlib is a significant setback for the Assad regime, which conceded the provincial capital of Raqqa in 2013 to the Islamic State; with the regime in Damascus, there are now three extremist capitals in one broken country As success begets success, al-Nusra will attract more groups and supporters who believe it is the only realistic chance of toppling Assad, rallying more to its extremist ranks even if only out of necessity.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The crisis in Yemen is primarily a Yemeni one, with legitimate internal issues and dysfunction that will not be improved by turning the crisis into a regional sectarian fight Once the genie of sectarian war is out of the bottle in Yemen, it will be impossible to put back, as seen in Iraq and Syria; the result will be years of conflict that could have been avoided by addressing the conflict as a local one As acknowledged by the U.S. State Department, Saudi Arabia does have legitimate concerns about what happens with its southern neighbor; however, treating the crisis as a primarily sectarian issue will likely be counterproductive The rhetoric on all sides and in their respective social media echo chambers is increasingly sectarian, escalating the conflict to the point where only Sunni extremists and Shi'a hardliners benefit and the people of Yemen suffer.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: Yemen, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Outside of its own borders, Iran now has significant proxy presence and influence in four countries encompassing 1.1 million square kilometers and 82 million people, in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon It has done this by leveraging tactical decisions made by other countries into its own strategic expansion; from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and now Yemen, Iran is taking advantage of the short-term actions of others in its long-term plan The complete collapse of the U.S.-aided Yemeni president and the associated counterterrorism and military support is just the latest example of measures intended to address immediate pressures, which ultimately benefit Iran-all while U.S. airstrikes support Iraqi and Iranian militias in Tikrit against the immediate threat of the Islamic State It's not that Iranian leaders are all-knowing, masterful chess players but rather that the Middle East has for decades been a battlefield of ad hoc stability measures by numerous countries that have enabled Iran to steadily project power, to the extreme concern of countries such as Saudi Arabia, which has now launched airstrikes in Yemen.
  • Topic: Security
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East, Yemen, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The horrific suicide bombings at Sana'a mosques, which killed at least 137 people, are the worst such attacks in 20 years and an omen of sectarian conflict that the beleaguered country has so far avoided With worsening sectarian violence, terrible governance, terrorist groups on the rise, meddling regional powers, and a tribal population awash with weapons but little else, Yemen resembles post-2009 Iraq, with significant differences but troubling similarities The Iraqification of Yemen will be a disaster for that country and an international community that is already unable to deal with Syria, Iraq, Libya, and other failing states The Houthi advance into the central town of Taiz, after calling for a general mobilization against the supporters of deposed/exiled president Hadi, and the fighting in Aden show the situation is escalating and could easily follow the path of Iraq, as more sectarian violence and regional demands tear the country apart.
  • Topic: Governance
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Yemen, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The brazen terrorist attack in the heart of Tunis, at the Bardo National Museum, is the most serious attack to take place in Tunisia since 2002, and presents the tourism-dependent country with serious challenges in how to respond effectively and proportionately Such an attack was nearly inevitable, given the disproportionately large number of Tunisians who have traveled to fight with the Islamic State, as well as being squeezed in a vise of extremism with Libya to the east and Algeria to the west There have been no claims of responsibility but there is no shortage of plausible suspects, with both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb active in the country There will likely be more attacks in Tunisia, though perhaps of a smaller but equally destabilizing nature, as the government increases pressure on networks, leaving the field open for Charlie Hebdo-styled attacks which are harder to disrupt given the smaller numbers of actors.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Libya, Syria, Tunisia
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Turkey will play a significant role in Syria's future, more so than any other neighbor, though the history between the two nations has been a troubled one Although Turkey's President Erdogan was at first keen to have good relations with Syria's President Assad, and succeeded in doing so, since 2011, they have gone sour Turkey is determined to influence the outcome of Syria's civil war, even if it finds no support from its allies The reappointment of Hakan Fidan to head the Turkish Intelligence Service may usher in a more active phase of Turkish involvement in the conflict.
  • Topic: Development, War
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The fourth anniversary of the start of the Syrian uprising has passed and the conflict sees no end in sight The humanitarian consequences of the conflict overwhelm the capacity of the international community to deal with them The involvement of malign non-state actors has complicated political options, both in the region and beyond Syria has become part of the counterterrorism agenda, and will likely be resolved in that context-however, any solution will take time.
  • Topic: United Nations
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The Islamic State accepted Boko Haram\'s allegiance, or bay\'at, pledged to the Iraq and Syria-based extremist group over the weekend Given the recent military setbacks for Boko Haram and the Islamic State, and their increasing convergence, this development is unsurprising and a propaganda victory for both groups The alliance may spark an escalation of attacks in northeast Nigeria, as Boko Haram seeks to prove itself to the Islamic State The announcement may also internationalize Boko Haram\'s fight and draw jihadists to Nigeria from across the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Syria
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: The alleged death of Abu Humam al-Shami, military leader of the Qaeda-affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, provides an important look at the long arc of some senior al-Qaeda members As a group, al-Qaeda was greatly diminished and dispersed after 9/11 but many al-Qaeda figures like al-Shami, who shook the hand of Usama bin Ladin and then slipped through the cracks, are still continuing the fight they started years ago Across the region, there are apostles of bin Ladin teaching their lessons to groups such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Jabhat al-Nusra, serving as both inspiration and instruction to newer fighters Because of the sustained presence of huge sanctuaries and conflict, there will unfortunately be another generation of Shami-type figures that will ensure the violence and hatred doesn't end with these current conflicts.
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Iraq, Syria
  • Author: Abigael Baldoumas, Daniel Gorevan, Joelle Bassoul, Camilla Jelbart Mosse
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Oxfam Publishing
  • Abstract: The numbers of people in need as a result of the conflict in Syria continues to rise, but the international humanitarian response has not kept pace. The donor conference in Kuwait on 31 March 2015 is an opportunity to reverse that trend and put Syrian civilians first. Oxfam has developed indicators to help guide the fair level of commitment that each wealthy country should make in 2015 to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the Syria crisis: The level of funding each country makes available for the humanitarian response, relative to the size of their economy (based on gross national income); The number of Syrian refugees each country has helped to find safety through offers of resettlement or other forms of humanitarian protection, again based on the size of the economy.
  • Topic: Civil War, Humanitarian Aid
  • Political Geography: Kuwait, Syria